Cycling rumors run rampant.

Cancellara to leave cycling for horse jumping?

The off-season in professional cycling is called the silly season. It’s sillier than you think.

After writing and reading about the sport nearly every day for the last year and a half, Twisted Spoke realizes how rumor-heavy cycling becomes when the races end.

The amount of rumors, half stories, mis-information, groundless speculation and outright witless nonsense is constant and surprising.

Part of this is fueled by the cycling media’s need to feed the Google beast three square meals a day. That means content, any content, and if there isn’t a story, all good writers make one up.

Take a rider quote, blow it out of proportion and context and you’ve got something inflammatory. You’ve got readers regardless of validity or confirmation. Doping stories, Armstrong stories, Contador’s meatgate, there’s plenty of material for playtime.

Cycling websites need readers to build a case for advertisers to spend money. Page views, time on site, frequency, all these things demand regular content and plenty of it. The hard part is, in the cycling offseason, there isn’t much news to report. Thus the reliance on and creation of rumors.

The on-going and now impossibly dull story of what team Fabian Cancellara will sign with is a perfect example. Months of “he might sign here, he might sign there, he’s going to announce, he’s not ready to announce, his signing in all but guaranteed with the Schlecks,” maybe, probably, sometime.

The multilingual and global personality of cycling also adds to the rumors, misinformation and noise pollution. This week it was reported that Ezequiel Mosquera’s B sample had been tested, did not contain EPO and that the Spanish Cycling Federation claimed the rider would go free. Wow, big news, huh?

Turns out that was not the case at all. Some writer got hold of a bad translation of a Spanish Marca article and wrote it up as fact. Then the cycling webworld picks up that falsehood and runs with it. It’s a “cut and paste” world and it’s sure quicker and cheaper than investigative work. But then the embarrassments happen. Like the UCI saying Mosquera’s B sample isn’t tested yet and the Spaniard in still in hot water.

Another element that contributes to the steady stream of rumors is that many of the governing bodies of the sport don’t communicate well with the press or with each other. WADA says one thing, UCI a second thing, ASO a third thing, CONI a fourth thing. Plenty of inconsistencies and variations on the same story. Which naturally leads to guesswork and more rumors.

Debates are good, thoughtful speculation is good, hypothetical scenarios are worth presenting. Twisted Spoke specializes in the manipulation of news for comedy and amusement. We make no claims to operating as a professional journalist. We don’t have the training, skill set or ethical code of a true pro. We just wonder sometimes, who does?

A fair number of cycling writers are former riders — they weren’t trained as investigative journalists. Their strength is not research, substantiating stories from multiple sources or even asking the hard question: is this in fact newsworthy to begin with? Fans make great advocates for the sport but perhaps not the most careful or objective reporters.

Okay, now on to the breaking news in the world of cycling this off-season. Lance Armstrong had a sex change when he was 14 and his real name is Sheila. Fabian Cancellara is not signing with the Schlecks but turning his attention to the sport of horse jumping. An unnamed source speaking Basque which really made it hard to understand assures me Alberto Contador is moving to Egypt and converting to Islam.

Actually these are just rumors but it’s the off-season, Twisted Spoke needs to post something, Google is hungry, readers are starved for content and besides, if nothing else, rumors are fun.

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